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Almost all NI construction firms 'using government furlough system for workers'

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Almost all NI construction firms 'using government furlough system for workers'

Almost all NI construction firms 'using government furlough system for workers'

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Almost all NI construction firms 'using government furlough system for workers'

Almost the entirety of Northern Ireland’s construction sector will put all or some of its staff on Government-backed paid furlough amid the coronavirus crisis, a new survey has shown.

Around 99% of companies within the sector say will be applying for the job retention scheme, with a third planning to put their entire workforce on furlough.

A further quarter of companies say they will also be applying for ‘business interruption loan’ or small business support grants, according to the survey of around 77 members of the Construction Employers Federation (CEF).

The survey also highlights concerns over government handling of the shutting down of construction sites – those deemed to be non-essential – as well as issues over the drawing down of the various forms of financial assistance.

Around two thirds of businesses also say all of their sites had now shut.

The survey included responses from firms working in both public and private sector construction and maintenance, civil engineers and house building.

Of those questioned, three quarters did not believe they could have operated their sites safely, under the guidance of social distancing.

The poll showed strongest confidence in the UK Government, followed by the Republic, but with just 16% favouring Stormont, taking into account speed of response, financial

supports announced and clarity of its messaging.

One of those firms included in the survey said that “drawing on Government financial support is top priority right now. It said “once this is figured out the post-crisis workload will take over” and that “staff wellbeing is ongoing”.

Another company said it wishes to get sites back “as soon as possible”. “We need government to say all construction work should continue if safe,” it added.

One firm claimed it had “no guarantee of getting covered to keep plant and equipment finance charges going in the interim and no guarantee we won’t be hit with penalties from the client”.

The CEF is continuing to press for clarity from the Executive over what’s considered as ‘essential services’, which could allow some work to continue, or restart.

Meanwhile, around three quarters of Northern Ireland firms say they have suffered a “serious decline” in income in the last few days while the vast majority plan to furlough some employees amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Just shy of two thirds of companies here say they have fewer than three months of cash reserves, while around 10% say they have none at all.

That��s according to the latest Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry survey, with BDO.